A lot of writing involves time travel—on that unreliable vehicle called memory. The older you get, the greater the distance being traversed and the less likely a successful arrival at your destination. Trying to write about my childhood on the South Side of Chicago is making me increasingly aware of this. But I reassure myself with the knowledge that all our memories are fictions. Only the rough plot outlines might be based on the original events. The stories themselves have been so heavily edited by the action of recalling them that they surely bear only the most superficial resemblance to what really occurred.
My wife says every time I tell someone a story about what happened to me, it gets “better”. I’m not at all sure she means that as a compliment, but I’m going to take it as one—and my less than perfect memory as something to be valued. As Nietzsche observed, “Many a man fails as an original thinker simply because his memory it too good.”